Thursday, October 4, 2001
Seniors start playIt's hard to be the defending champion of a new tournament, but that's exactly where Hale Irwin finds himself as he prepares for tomorrow's first round of the $1.5 million Turtle Bay Championship.
at Turtle Bay
The event is new, but
Irwin is a defending
champion of sorts
By Paul Arnett
Irwin captured the defunct EMC Kaanapali Classic last year with a three-day total of 198. The 15-under-par showing was four shots better than Irwin's closest competitor in the Senior PGA Tour event. But that was not only on another course, but a different island.
The Turtle Bay Championship may replace the former Maui tournament, but that doesn't necessarily mean Irwin holds an advantage on the other 77 golfers in the field. Who can master the tradewinds on the northern-most point of Oahu stands the best chance of winning the 54-hole competition.
"The course here is in great shape," Irwin said of the Arnold Palmer-designed par-72 layout. "But what you have to contend with here is the wind."
Irwin is one of six golfers in the field who are among this year's top 10 money winners. Joining him in that elite group are Allen Doyle, Bruce Fleisher, Jim Thorpe, Dana Quigley and Ed Dougherty.
Doyle recently slipped past Fleisher as the No. 1 money winner with $2.3 million in 30 tournaments. Fleisher has pocketed $2.2 million in 28 appearances and trails Doyle by 149 points in the Charles Schwab Cup, which pays $1 million to the winner.
There are four official events remaining on the Senior Tour. The Turtle Bay winner receives 225 points.
Fleisher has been successful in the islands in recent years. He won the 1999 Kaanapali Classic and tied for third at this year's MasterCard Championship on the Big Island. He has captured 14 events and more than $7 million since joining the Senior Tour in 1999.
He still has a way to go to catch Irwin, who is No. 1 in career Senior Tour earnings with $13.5 million. He has 31 career victories, including two this season, since joining the Senior Tour in 1995. Irwin still represents the Kapalua Resort on Maui and looks forward to competing this week.
"It's always great to be back here in Hawaii," Irwin said.
This week's tournament marks the start of what the PGA Tour calls the 'Aloha Season.' Hawaii is second only to Florida in hosting PGA Tour and Senior PGA Tour events, and this is one of six events that will be played in the island chain over the next three months.
"The arrangement is similar to one Hawaii has with the NFL and the Pro Bowl. It is a year-round effort to help co-brand each other," said Ray Stosik, president of 141 Communicator, which manages five of the Hawaii tournaments. "It is a point well-made that people who come to Hawaii can play the same courses they see the PGA Tour players play on television."
The next Hawaii event is the Grand Slam of Golf held on Kauai in November. The Mercedes Championships and the Sony Open follow in January. Next year's Sony Open is the first full event on the PGA Tour.